Fougere questions Masters’ election promise of 15 per cent efficiencies for city operations

Incumbent Regina Mayor Michael Fougere took issue to one of mayoral candidate Sandra Masters’ platform promises.

Earlier this month, Masters promised to find 15 percent in operations savings by increasing efficiencies in city operations.

Fougere says this plan is dangerous, especially during a pandemic.

“Ms. Masters is planning to find 15 percent in city cuts to operations within six months, that’s an over $70 million cut,” said Fougere. “I’ve done this job for a while, looked at many budgets, and I can tell you that a $70 million dollar hole in our operations will absolutely devastate our city, and halt any momentum we have for economic recovery.”

He warned that a 15 percent cut could result in the closing of Regina parks, pools, rinks, and recreation facilities as well as reductions to fire, police, and emergency services.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic has been devasting enough, cuts would just make it worse.

“No matter what way you look at it, we simply can’t devastate our city like this. We are facing the greatest public health crisis in 100 years, the economic and social effects here, like anywhere else in Canada, have been very severe,” said Fougere. “So now more than ever, we need generous and compassionate leadership, not devastating cuts depriving our citizens of the vital and life-supporting services they desperately need each and every day.”

With nine candidates in the mayoral race, Fougere says people need to do their research before casting their vote.

“I’m encouraging everyone in Regina to carefully examine the choice in this coming election,” said Fougere. “Do we want untested, risky leadership that could devastate our community, our service, our people, and our economy? Or do we want continued growth and balanced leadership to keep life affordable, keep it safe, and ensure a strong economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Masters hits back

Sandra Masters, mayoral candidate in Regina’s civic election. (Photo: Moises Canales/620 CKRM)

In response to Fougere’s comments, Masters clarified that her goal of 15 per cent in savings from increased efficiencies would be about reviewing operational efficiencies.

In her campaign platform, her promise is listed as “an operations efficiency review within the first six months and commit to finding 15 per cent in savings from increased efficiencies.” Masters told reporters it’s about being as resourceful as possible during a critical time and that the review is not about cuts to jobs or services.

“What you’re looking at are policies, procedures, procurement and people,” said Masters. “The idea of 15 per cent efficiencies is finding ways to do more with what you have.”

“It could be as simple as providing the proper software to the employees so it frees up their time from doing manual entries. We have this much money, we have this much time, how can we do more with what we have.”

When she was asked again if there would be cuts to services and jobs, she answered, “I don’t think so, but I don’t know.”

Masters added that she thinks Fougere came out with his comments about her platform on Thursday because he is nervous and concerned about his own job. She feels she’s positioned closest to him in the mayoral race.

“The mayor came out with a number [Tuesday] morning and said that 15 per cent is worth $70 million. Had the mayor committed himself to finding 15 per cent efficiencies every year over the last eight years, there might be another half a billion dollars – by his own math – at the city available for pools, arenas and all the things the citizens of Regina expect,” stated Masters.

“I think I cause him the most concern because I believe I can be the next mayor of this city, and I think he knows the same thing.”

Reginans vote in the municipal and school board elections on November 9.

(With files from Moises Canales)

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